The Spider Labyrinth (1988 movie) review…

The Spider Labyrinth (1988 movie) review after the break…

The Spider Labyrinth (1988 movie) review…

Fundamentally, H.P. Lovecraft introduced the world to the “Our main character is being toyed with by super-religious forces beyond their control and will ultimately fail” horror mechanic. Forget the actual names and places of the Lovecraftian mythos – The writing mechanic of the doomed human against the omnipotent god is what brought him the fame.

The reason why the mechanic worked, though, is the same reason why an antibiotic works on an ailment – Because the ailment has never seen it before and can’t create a defense for it. It’s the reason why everyone was shocked – SHOCKED! – That Bruce Willis was a ghost in “The Sixth Sense” and that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Do it once and the mechanic works… Do it a thousand times and the mechanic becomes nothing more then a tired cliche.

“The Spider Labyrinth” is a 1988 movie of multiple names – It has also gone by the name of “The Spider’s Nest” and it’s original Italian name, “Il Nido del Ragno” (I can’t read Italian so I hope I didn’t just write something obscene). For all intents and purposes, though, this is a typical H.P. Lovecraftian horror movie that hits every blatant Lovecraftian cliche squarely on the head with all the subtlety of a jackhammer at full throttle.

In the movie, a young college professor from Dallas, USA, must travel abroad to your typical icky, scary Eastern European backwater nowhere town in order to complete the research of another professor. There, he finds our elder professor to be in shambles, fumbling nervously with his words. Passing off some documents before he can be spotted, he is later found hanged. So, what had the elder professor stumbled onto? Who is in on the prerequisite BIG SECRET? More importantly, will the audience even care?

What makes a movie like this work is when you don’t know what is going on – You don’t know that the elder professor has stumbled onto something *big*, you don’t know that the young professor’s girlfriend is “in on it,” you don’t know that the entire town is in on the conspiracy… Unfortunately, in this movie, you know from the start that all of these cliches will be on display.

How bad does this movie telegraph the notion that it’s Lovecraftian? One example involves a fairly early scene when our young professor and his romantic interest are dining in a hotel. EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER, including the wait staff, all stare at this couple as the romantic interest plies the young professor to reveal if the elder professor slipped any information to the young professor before the elder professor’s death. Another involves a very bad excuse for a very spider-like scar on the arm of one of the town residents.

There are so many cliches in this movie that college students would be advised against turning this film into a drinking game – If they drank every time a cliche appeared, they’d be carted off to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. There’s the crazy old man trying to warn the young professor to leave the town before it’s too late. There’s the town resident who also tries to warn the young professor that he’s in far over his head, but uses the most vaguest language possible. Why can’t anyone in this movie tell someone the truth upfront? Is it really that difficult?

“See, everyone in town is batsiht insane over this spider religion thing and you’re it’s next victim. By the way, try our soup, it’s delicious and handmade from scratch. You’ll really enjoy it.”

There are, admittedly, some nice touches to this movie. First, I liked the contrast between “modern” Dallas and the icky Eastern European town – The new world versus the old, modern society versus the generations old traditions… Such a comparison can often become icky and cliched itself but, in this film, it worked and I liked it.

The film, knowing it probably needed the boost in eye traffic, also isn’t shy about giving away the eye candy. Paola Rinaldi doesn’t disappoint as the romantic interest, giving up the goods enough so that anyone with an affliction for skin certainly won’t be disappointed.

However, the film’s brutal lack of subtlety simply can’t be compensated for. Empty swings, toy balls, everyone glaring at our young protagonist (who, admittedly, is drenched in 80’s fashion and carries it with a shamelessness that has to be admired)… Enough! All such things were far too obvious and far too telegraphed to be suspenseful. The predictable “Let’s reveal that everyone was in on it” climax has some nice spider effects but… Really, who cares at that point? That climax, along with the “Nothing’s Wrong With Our Young Professor Afterwards But Actually Is” final scenes, have no suspense and that’s what those scenes need for them to work.

The more an antibiotic is used against an ailment, the less effective it ultimately becomes as the ailment builds up a defense. So, too, for our story mechanic – “Human vs. the Evil Monster God” can only work so many times before it becomes old hat. H.P. Lovecraft fanatics may find some merit to the this film but all others might want to leave this film alone.


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